Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amelia Bedelia Means Business

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Amelia Bedelia Means Business

By:  Herman Parish 
Illustrated by Lynne Avril 
Published:  Greenwillow Books 2013 

I grew up reading Amelia Bedelia books and loved them all.  They were so funny and reminded me of some of the sarcastic humor that my family has.  I was excited when I stumbled upon the new Amelia Bedelia and that there were chapter books with one of my favorite childhood characters.  I had no idea there was a change and I have to say I love the new change.

Amelia Bedelia is a very literal girl.  You can not be sarcastic or use fun things such as "Step on it" when your in a hurry.  Because whatever it is she will step on it.  She just doesn't understand those type things or why people don't just say what they mean.  In this book she is a young girl and a classmate of her's Suzanne comes to school with a brand new bike.  Amelia Bedelia looks at her bike and immediately decides she eneds a new one too.  Her parents tell her they can't buy a bike for her but will "meet her half-way."  Which of course takes a while for them to explain to her means they will pay for half the cost of the new bike but Amelia has to come up with the other half.  They decide she needs to get a new job.  She tries to be a waitress and to run a lemonade stand but of course her literal way of understanding things turns those into disasters for her and the people around her.  

She finally uses all her left over lemons from the stand to make lemon tart tarts with extra lemons as an apology to all.  When passing them out she learns how good they are and the diner owner that she previously worked for a few hours for tells her he will buy two dozen of the tart tarts everyday to sell to his customers and she will make $12 a day.   She finally has a business that will work for her. On the way back home she runs into Suzanne,literally, and her bike gets broken so they take it together to the bike shop where she learns there will be an original design bike parade and the winner of the most original decoration will win a new bike.  

She goes home and tells her family and they talk her into not trying to win the new bike but instead advertising her Tart Tarts Business so she makes her bike look like a lemon and plans to hand out tarts to the people while she is in the parade.  This of course is also a disaster for Amelia but in the end turns out well for her as she wins the bike and people learn about her tasty Lemon Tart Tarts.  

 I have to say while reading this I thought that there were way too many sayings that children would not get and often wondered if it was geared more for adult humor, but at the same time I remember reading it and still finding it funny.  For example she makes a sign for her Lemonade stand and it said Lots Of Lemons.  She decides to sell her Lemonade at the car lot she visited because a lot of people go there and she remembers going there and it being so hot.  She attaches her sign to the car salesman sign.  It reads Lots of Lemons and causes the salesman to get very angry.  Now as an adult I got that right away because bad cards are called lemons but Amelia and the children reading it would probably not know that.  That is just one example of how the humor is more related to adults.  

I still think children will find the book very entertaining but for different reasons.  They might not understand the sayings, but they will definitely laugh at the way Amelia Bedelia translates those for kids in a hilarious way.  As I read this I also pictured my kindergarten class and some of the things they would say or take things I was reminded of one time when I told the children we were going to do handwriting next.  It was the first week of school and a little boy took out his paper and pencil and proceeded to trace his hand.  He held it up and said he was done with his handwriting.  My TA and I had a good laugh about that one for years to come.  Children just don't understand things sometimes and they think they do.  That is exactly what happens to Amelia Bedelia all the time.  This is why I think she is a much better character as a young girl and more believable than when I read the older one and she was an adult.  I love the fact that Herman has shown us her as a child and I think it makes it all that more relate-able to children.  I also love that we have chapter books now that can develop into even more of a plot and story line.  

There are black and white illustrations throughout the story.  I have to say that Lynne Avril is becoming one of my favorite children's book illustrators.  Her illustrations add so much to the story.  Even though these are in black and white gouache, they are so friendly and inviting to children.  They just plain look fun and they bring Amelia Bedelia to life.  I love how even though this is a beginning chapter book for children they still have illustrations to help them understand the story even more.  

The 50th Anniversary of Amelia Bedelia was 2013 and with that brought a new series of chapter books focused on Amelia Bedelia when she was young.  This book is the first in the set.  It was written by the original writer's nephew Herman after she passed away.  He took over the legacy and it evolved into something great.  You can read more about him, the original creator Peggy Parish, and the 50th anniversary in this article in Publisher's Weekly.  I especially like the part where is says Peggy Parish used the children in her classroom to help create her stories for Amelia Bedelia.  I can see that and what makes the books so funny for children to read.  I also love the last paragraph of the article where Herman Parrish said “My aunt felt that if kids don’t discover the joy of reading within a certain window of time, they won’t develop a habit of reading for enjoyment,” he says. “That was her impetus for becoming a writer and for creating the Amelia Bedelia books.”  This is exactly what Amelia Bedelia does, she makes reading fun and this new series of chapter book with a younger Amelia continues to do that!

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